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Agile Vs Waterfall Vs RAD: Which App Development Methodology is Best for Your Project?

Alekh Verma | February 9, 2023
Agile-RAD-Waterfall

At the starting of any mobile app development project, teams and organizations have to first deal with the question-which app development methodology should they choose among Agile vs Waterfall vs RAD?

This question is important also because software projects require a methodology of clearly defined processes or software development life cycle to make sure the final product is of high quality. An SDLC identifies stages and the structured flow from one phase to another phase.

Generally, there are six to seven SDLC models; however, companies are often confused in choosing among the most popular models; Agile, Waterfall, and RAD.

Today, we will solve this confusion and discuss Agile vs Waterfall vs RAD to choose which app development methodology is best for your project?

Before determining a method of application development, make sure your developer team analyzes all of these important factors:

  • Team composition
  • Previous experience of the project team with a methodology
  • Business goals
  • Product-market fit
  • Costs of delay
  • How much change might be needed
  • Feedback on the completed work

Analyzing these essential elements can help you get a clear picture of the project you are working on, no matter what type of software or mobile app development methodology you will choose.

What is SDLC?

App development methodology is the process of planning and defining how an app or software will be developed. This is called Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).

SDLC is a process that development teams use to develop highly adaptable software or mobile application in a cost-efficient way. It is made up of five key stages which consist of:

  1. Value and productivity analysis
  2. Software planning stage
  3. Design and development stage
  4. Launch and learn
  5. Post-launch support stage

The entire development process should be consistently measured and improved, and that is where SDLC comes in. It minimizes the costs and the risks of negative consequences for the companies and app owners. SDLC process helps companies deliver software faster and meet or exceed their customer's requirements.

Why we are discussing SDLC here at all?

SDLC is the foundation of software or application development planning. If any methodology meets all criteria of SDLC, that model is considered to be the best. Therefore, to choose which methodology is best for your project, you should check which model gives you the best results while meeting the basic stages of SDLC.

The Basic Stages of SDLC:

Analysis

In this SDLC stage, your mobile app developer team needs to understand what software or app is required that makes the project successful. As teams get a bigger picture of the project's conditions and requirements, the chances they choose the app development method will generate the maximum results. This stage requires a strong market analysis to understand the competition and the key features that make your mobile app successful. 

Planning

In this stage, project managers analyze the terms of the project, from creating a timetable with defined goals to calculating labor, material costs to defining the project's teams, and leadership structure. The planning stage involves feedback from potential customers, sales representatives, developers, and subject matter experts. 

Design & Prototyping

Once you define the requirements, the design stage is the next step to create the digital product come to life. The design stage further can be split into smaller and more specific stages; 

Architecture- It defines programming language, industry practices, overall design, and usage of any templates or boilerplate.

User Interface- It specifies the ways users interact with the application.

Mobile OS platforms- Analyzing and selecting the framework on which the application will run (Android or iOS, or both).

Programming- It contains the methods that a team can use to communicate with other assets like a central server or other instances of the app.

Security- It includes measures on how to ensure mobile app security such as incorporating SSL traffic encryption, password protection, and secure storage of user credentials.

Prototyping- It represents an early or sample version of the application.

Mobile app Quality Assurance- This stage confirms after conducting multiple app tests whether your mobile application is fully ready to launch and will meet the user's expectations as decided during the initial stage of app development planning.

Many app owners and companies believe mere testing the app is a sign of successful development. But this is a myth, read our blog on the best practices in mobile app quality assurance that will give you deep insights on how to ensure high quality in your app.

Launch & Learn

While a small project can be written by a single developer, a large one might be broken up and worked by several development teams. This stage simply implies the actual writing of the project, detecting and fixing errors and glitches, and compiling code so an app can run flawlessly. That is why before you publish an app on the Play Store, it is extremely important to test your mobile application. 

Post-Launch Support

The last stage of the app development cycle is post-launch support how companies will monitor the performance of their app and provide support after app launch to users.

So any mobile application development methodology must provide a solution for the basic stages of SDLC. Now we will analyze the top three app development methodologies: Agile vs WaterFall vs RAD. 

Agile Methodology

Agile software development methodology is based on an incremental, iterative approach. Instead of in-depth planning at the beginning of the project, Agile methodologies are open to changing requirements over time and encourages regular feedback from the end-users.

Most mobile app development companies in India use Agile in their projects due to its high adaptability scope and dynamic approach towards the final product. In Agile methodology, leadership encourages teamwork, accountability, and face-to-face communication. Business stakeholders and developers must work together to align a product with customer needs and company goals. 

Advantages of Agile

Adaptability to changes: With shorter planning cycles, it is fairly easy to accommodate and accept changes at any time during the project. There is always an opportunity to change and reprioritize the backlog, allowing teams to introduce changes to the project in a matter of weeks.

End-goal can be unknown: Agile is extremely beneficial for projects where the end-goal is not clear or defined accurately. As the project progresses, the goals will come into the picture and development can easily adapt to these evolving requirements.

Faster, high-quality delivery: Breaking down the project into iterations (manageable units) allows the team to focus on high-quality development, testing, and collaboration. Delivering test for each iteration phase means bugs get identified and resolved more quickly.

Strong team interaction: Agile focuses on the importance of frequent communication and face-to-face interactions. Teams work together and people are able to take responsibility and own individual responsibility for the projects.

Clients are heard: Clients who are developing mobile apps from an app development agency need constant monitoring about the status of their app. Agile gives many opportunities to app owners to see how the workflow is going and gain a sense of ownership by interacting with the project team.

Continuous improvement: Agile projects feedback from users and team associates throughout the whole project, so lessons are used to improve future iterations. 

Disadvantages of Agile

Planning can be less concrete: In Agile, planning can sometimes be hard to pin down a solid delivery date because Agile is based on time-boxed delivery and project managers often reprioritize the tasks.

The team must be knowledgeable: Agile teams are usually small that is why team members must be professional in a variety of areas. They must understand and feel comfortable with Agile methodology.

Documentation can be neglected: The Agile Manifesto prefers working software over comprehensive documentation; hence some team members may feel like it is less important to focus on documentation.

The final product can be different: The initial Agile project might not have a defined plan, so the final product can look different than what was initially intended.

Waterfall Methodology

Waterfall methodology follows a sequential and linear process. It is a widely popular version of the SDLC and IT projects. It is sometimes planned using a Gantt chart, a type of bar chart which shows the starting and end dates for each task.

Once one of the eight stages is finished, the development team moves onto the next step and can't go back to a previous move to the next stage. And before the team can move to the next stage, requires may require to be reviewed and approved by the customer.

Advantages of Waterfall

Waterfall is good for simple and unchanging projects. It's linear. Rigid nature makes it easy to use and allows for in-depth documentation.

Easy to use and manage: As the Waterfall methodology follows the same sequential pattern for each project, it makes it easy to use and understand. The team doesn't need any prior knowledge or training before working on a Waterfall project.

Discipline is enforced: Every stage in Waterfall has a starting and ending point, which is easy to share progress with stakeholders and customers. This methodology focus on requirements and design before writing code, as a result, the team can reduce the risk of a missed deadline.

Requires a well-documented approach: Waterfall needs documentation for every phase for a better understanding of the logic behind the code and tests. It also leaves a paper trail for any future projects or if stakeholders require to view more details about a specific phase.

Disadvantages of Waterfall

The biggest disadvantage of Waterfall is how it handles change. Because Waterfall is a linear and sequential method, it doesn't allow you to go back between previous phases. 

Changes can't be easily accommodated: Once the development team completes a phase, they can't go back. If they reach the mobile app testing phase and realize that a feature was missing from the requirement phase, it is extremely difficult and expensive to go back and fix it.

Application isn't delivered until late: The project has to complete two to four phases before the coding actually begins. As a result, app owners will not be able to see working their app until late in the life cycle.

Gathering accurate requirements can be challenging: One of the first phases in a Waterfall project is to talk to clients and stakeholders and recognize their requirements. However, it can be challenging to pinpoint exactly what they want in the early stage of the project.

RAD Methodology

Rapid Application Development (RAD) was introduced in the 1970s as a sort of counter to the Waterfall methodology. The primary goal of RAD is to produce working prototypes of the products as fast as possible and to continuously tweak and improve.

In RAD, the development team and the customer work closely together to continuously analyze and improve the product or application requirements base on incoming information. This is opposite to the Waterfall method which can operate with very little interaction between app development company and client.

The RAD methodology involves smaller teams of highly experienced developers and programmers who are well-versed in various disciplines. If changes are required, they are discussed and incorporated throughout the development process. RAD is all about reducing the development time and refining through prototypes. This method allows making quick changes to the application. 

Advantages of RAD

Faster delivery: RAD gives feature end delivery of the application because it is highly iterative and can get to the goal rapidly.

Quicker adjustments: RAD is adaptable to incorporating changes or adjustments during the development.

Fewer errors: As RAD utilizes a repository of components for reuse, there are often fewer errors in the code that generally makes application testing time shorter.

Lower development cost: RAD may require extra funds to spend on hiring skilled app developers. However, by shortening the development time, these costs work out to be the same. In RAD, you never have to rerun the project again from the beginning of the client asks some major changes, which leads to less development cost in overrun.

Better risk control: With RAD, you can focus on risk factors early in the process and continue to discuss them as development goes on. Risks can be found during development and addressed immediately. In other models, risks are put on hold until the final version appears which sets you up for any risks you couldn't think of in the beginning.

Disadvantages of RAD

Lack of Scalability: One of the main disadvantages of the RAD methodology is the lack of scalability in the final product which would have been achieved if it had been designed as a full application from the starting rather than a prototype.

Not suitable for all projects: RAD model is suitable for small and medium-sized (development time) projects, not for all projects.

It encourages a small team: ARD model encourages a small team of around 2 to 6 developers at the same time; it demands high-quality and speed in the application development. To make it happen, it is difficult all the members of the team are highly skilled and familiar with the tools being used.

Needs high team collaboration: RAD requires high team collaboration between all the parties involved in the project. If even one of the team members s not able to perform his/her task efficiently, it might affect the entire application development cycle.

The Final Words

Choose a model that suits best to your project

Now you have gone through the advantages and disadvantages of these application development methodologies. So you have concluded that which model is best depends on your project size, nature, and requirement. When we are discussing Agile vs Waterfall vs RAD, it doesn’t mean it is a competition but which model fits better with your project requirements is the only deciding factor.

You should choose Agile methodology when:

  • The project size is large enough so it can be broken down into several sprints
  • The team composition consists of a lot of specialists who can work together on the project
  • The major parts of the project are known ahead of time and can be planned out
  • You have good project managers in the workplace

You should choose Waterfall when:

  • You don't expect many changes
  • Budget are fixed for the project
  • The team has done a similar project before
  • The client knows exactly how the mobile application would look like and doesn't plan to be involved much during the process of app development. 

You should choose RAD when you have:

  • A highly experienced team of developers
  • A highly engaged customer or client (app owner)
  • A dynamic delivery date
  • Need for immediate development

What’s your move?

Mobile application is a complex software engineering process. If you want create a great mobile application at low development cost, you need to choose the right methodology wisely and later implement it intelligently.

For this, eSearch Logix stands out as the perfect choice if you are searching for a company that can deliver your dream mobile app with the right development methodology.

At eSearch Logix, we have a large team of certified developers, highly skilled programmers, software engineers, and project managers who first deeply analyze your project and then start working with the model.

Discuss Your App Idea

If you want to discuss anything regarding your mobile app project or want to share your thoughts on this blog post, just write in the below comment box.

Alekh Verma

CEO and Founder at eSearch Logix Technologies!

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